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16 January 2024

2023 immigration rules round-up

Throughout the year, there have been several big changes to the immigration rules. In this blog, we will summarise them all.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Union Jack flying on the bottom half of the screen on Westminster Bridge, leading to Parliament where 2023 immigration rules were made

While there have not been as many statements of changes from the Government compared to previous years, the four they released in 2023 made many important changes. Some of the new changes will not come into effect until they are made law in 2024, so there is still time for any new rules modified or removed. 

Also, in October 2022, there was a Statement of Changes with updates that impacted 2023. We shall discuss anything announced in 2022 that had effects on events on 2023 immigration rules alongside the changes that were announced throughout the last year.

2022 immigration updates that impacted 2023 immigration rules

In October 2022, the Ukraine Extension Scheme application period was extended up until 16 May 2023. Though it has now been closed for several months, it allowed more Ukrainian people to stay in the UK after escaping the ongoing war. 

9 March 2023 Statement of Changes

The first Statement of Changes of 2023 came in March. This statement was a big one, as it introduced a new visa, alongside changes to existing ones.

Innovator Founder Visa

The Innovator Founder Visa route replaced the existing Innovator route, as well as the Start-up Visa. This route allows overseas nationals to set up their own business in the UK; the business needs to be an innovative idea. A key difference from the previous version is that it got rid of the £50,000 minimum funds requirement that people needed to reach to set up their business. The requirements in general also became more flexible.

Salary threshold increase for certain visas

Next, several visas saw an increase in salary thresholds which came into effect for applications made after 12 April 2023. These visas were: 

If an employer does not meet the threshold, then their applications can now be cancelled by the authorities. 

Other updates introduced by this Statement of Changes included:

  • The announcement of the Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme coming into effect in October 2023 for Qatari nationals, then February 2024 for nationals of Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
  • The Youth Mobility Scheme age range and length of stay was extended for New Zealanders.

17 July 2023 Statement of Changes

This Statement of Changes was the first of two that came in July 2023. It included Student Visa and EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) changes, as well as changes to the Skilled Worker route.

Student Visas

As of the statement, anyone on a Student Visa can no longer switch onto a work route whilst their course is ongoing. They must first finish their course. PhD students can switch after 24 months’ study. 

Students are also no longer be able to bring dependants with them to the UK as of 1 January 2024.

EUSS updates

The EUSS saw updates with a change that made it so people with pre-settled status will not lose residence rights if they have not yet applied or secured settled status. You can read more about the EUSS automatic extensions in our blog.

Skilled Worker route updates

Jobs from the construction industry and the fishing industry were added to the Shortage Occupation List. These include masons and bricklayers for the former, and agriculture for the latter. This means that people applying for these jobs will have lower visa fees and salary requirements.

19 July 2023 Statement of Changes

Just two days later, a second, smaller Statement of Changes was released on 19 July 2023. 

This statement only dealt with changes to countries that need a Visitor Visa to enter the UK.

Five countries were added to the UK National Visa List. These are:

  • Dominica
  • Honduras
  • Namibia
  • Timor-Leste
  • Vanuatu

As these countries are now on the UK National Visa List, the UK can refuse visas of any high risk individuals from those countries that try to come to the UK.

7 September 2023 Statement of Changes

This is the second to last Statement of Changes of 2023. There were a number of changes to different areas, making it a large statement. 

Youth Mobility Scheme expansion

The Youth Mobility Scheme’s existing agreement with Australia and Canada was given updates. The age range of the scheme was expanded from 18-30, to 18-35. Also, the length of stay was increased from 2 years to 3 years. 

Additionally, an agreement was made with Andorra to add them to the scheme. 

Finally, self-employment will only be allowed under the scheme if the individual does not have somewhere to work from other than their home, they have no employees, and their equipment costs less than £5,000. 

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) introduction

The ETA scheme was launched in October 2023, and will roll out over time to more and more countries.  

It is a new requirement for individuals from countries that do not need visas to enter the UK. It can only be used by people who plan on staying for less than six months. 

People who are Irish nationals over the age of 16 will not need to apply for one, but they will need to prove that they are resident in Ireland.

NHS debt is no longer a valid reason for an ETA to be refused.

EUSS and Healthcare Visitor Visa updates

There is no longer a right of review for Home Office decisions on the EUSS and Healthcare Visitor Visas. Applicants will instead have to use the appeals process, which can take longer. 

On the other hand, parents and children will no longer need to show proof that they are dependants when they apply to renew their limited leave to remain.

No recourse to public funds updates

Migrants who have no recourse to public funds will no longer have access to benefits from Social Security Scotland, the Department of Work and Pensions, and from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. 

UK entry ban modification

The entry ban of 10 years was removed, and now there is no longer a specific time period for entry bans. They can now last indefinitely.

Long residence

What is classed as lawful residence under long residence was the final change in the statement. 

Time spent on immigration bail, as a seasonal worker, short-term student, or as a visitor no longer counts towards 10 years of lawful long residence. This includes previous versions of the visa routes. 

7 December 2023 Statement of Changes

This is the final Statement of Changes released in 2023. It has many smaller updates to several different aspects of the immigration rules. It would take too long to provide brief details about them all, so we will provide a brief overview of what was updated, and only provide brief detail about the biggest changes. If you want more details, you can read our blog on the 7 December 2023 Statement of Changes.

Many of these changes will come into effect on 31 January 2024.

EUSS changes

People who visit the UK and want to join their family must apply to the EUSS within three months of their arrival.

Limited leave to remain can be reduced if the person does not meet the requirements for EUSS. 

Visitor rule updates

There were a range of updates allowing people to carry out activities, such as research if they are a scientist, if they come to the UK on a Visitor Visa.

Youth Mobility Scheme updates

Nationals of South Korea and Japan no longer require an invitation to apply for the scheme. Also, the age range of South Koreans who can apply has expanded from 18-30 to 18-35.

Additionally, after arrangements being made with Uruguay, they are now on the list.

Other changes

There were other changes to rules around stateless people, victims of domestic abuse, temporary worker routes, and school trips from France. Read our previously linked blog to learn about these recent changes.

Other updates

While they have not yet come into effect and have not been included in a Statement of Changes, there are some important rules that have been announced in December 2023.

In an effort to reduce net migration, the Home Office has announced that jobs on a Skilled Worker Visa must have a salary of at least £38,700. 

The same number also applies to British nationals or settled people who want to sponsor dependants, such as their spouse.

Finally, the Shortage Occupation List is being replaced by the Immigration Salary List, and some jobs will be removed from it.

You can learn more about the Government’s announcement on our blog about these new changes.

How we can help

At Woodcock Law, our expert legal team have helped countless clients with their UK immigration needs. From visas, to citizenship, we have assisted them with a range of issues. 

With the immigration rules changing several times a year, it can be hard for people to know what requirements they need to meet and what other important information they need to know. That is why we are here to help you with any issues you have.

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Get in touch with us today if you need our services. You can have a free 10-minute consultation with a member of our legal team.

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